My mom subjected my sister and me to this punny lullaby when we were
kids. I wish I knew the origins of this little ditty! Anyhow, I
recorded her singing it to my daughter, who was about 3 at the time, and
present the recording here for your enjoyment. Note that "the Jolly Tar" refers
to a sailor. I didn't know that when this was being sung to me...
- Duff Kurland - January 31, 2007
Do ships have eyes when they go to sea? Are there springs in the ocean's bed? Does the Jolly Tar flow from a tree? Can a river lose its head? Could you bring relief to a window pane? Or mend the break of day? Would you paint a rabbit on a bald man's head, Just to give him a bit of hare? If you ate a square meal would the corners hurt? Can you dig with the Ace of spades? Would you throw a rope to a drowning lemon, Just to give a lemon aid?
To correspondent Dave Oesterreich, this brought to mind a pun-infested song handed down by his stepfather, Frank McGovern, in late-1940s Minnesota. This one is sung to the tune of The Wearin' o' the Green.
I was born in Cincinnati Up in Iceland, in the South And that's the very reason why My voice is in my mouth. 'Twas a hot and frosty morning, Yes, quite windy, I believe, And the great big trees were making boughs For they were going to leave. And I went to sleep in a river Just because it had a bed And I took a sheet of water Just to cover up my head. If a rooster could but carry a hod, A hen would lay a brick. There are cripples dying nowadays Because they cannot kick. And the veg'tables were racing To win the Butter Cup, And the cabbage got so far a-head The tomatoes couldn't ketchup. And the pigs was making pigsties And the grass was making hay, And the bumble-bees was making bum . . . . For Ta-ra-bum-de-ay!
Aha! Finally, another reference to Do Ships Have Eyes? !! Jim Fritzler has transcribed a 1901 book by William Courtright, posting it online at The Complete Minstrel Guide. His Extra Jokes page includes the following lyrics. Somewhat different, which is interesting, and only two verses. Lots of other puns on that page, too. Some are even good!
Do ships have eyes when they go to sea? Are there springs in the ocean bed? Does a jolly old tar ooze out of a tree? Can a river lose its head? Must old Father Time be considered a thief For stealing the hours away? Can you give a window pane relief? Can you mend the break of day?
But, wait! There's more! In the Flashes column on page 2 of the April 14, 1927 issue of the Madison Mirror (Central High School, Madison, Wisconsin), we find the following morsel:
Isn't the Web amazing??
I just discovered a longer version of this song, with a different tune, in "A Prairie Home Companion Folk Song Book" (1988) by Marcia and Jon Pankake, pp. 190-191. That version is titled "Questions".
A discussion on this topic, with some additional punny lines for the song, can be found at Mama Lisa's World Blog. It references the current page, so here's your chance to go 'round in circles.